Poll: Sen. Bingaman posts double-digit leads over potential rivals

As long as Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) opts to run for reelection next year, Democrats shouldn't have a problem hanging onto his Senate seat. 

Bingaman's approval rating stands at 56 percent, and he leads all rumored GOP contenders for the seat by double digits, according to a new survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP).

In hypothetical 2012 general election match-ups, Bingaman leads former Gov. Gary Johnson 51 percent to 40; he leads Rep. Steve Pearce 57 percent to 34; and he leads former Rep. Heather Wilson 56 percent to 37. 

Still, there's lingering speculation that Bingaman might retire ahead of next year rather than run for a sixth term. That would put the seat in play, according to PPP's numbers, especially if Johnson opts for a Senate run rather than a bid for the GOP presidential nomination. 

In an open-seat race with Democratic Reps. Martin Heinrich and Ben Lujan as the party's standard-bearers, both would start out trailing Johnson. The former governor leads Henrich 44 percent to 43 and he leads Lujan 45 percent to 40. 

The poll surveyed 545 New Mexico voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.  

Bingaman's fundraising numbers from the final quarter of 2010 likely eased some Democratic minds ahead of 2012. He raised $216,000 during the final three months of the year. 


Poll: Obama among most polarizing presidents in decades

President Obama is one of the most polarizing presidents in decades, and his second year in office measured the largest gap in party ratings of any president since Republican Dwight Eisenhower was in office. 

According to new numbers from Gallup, Obama's approval ratings in 2010 were more polarized than they were during his first year in office, measuring a 68-point gap between the percentage of Democrats approving of the president and the percentage of Republicans approving. 

An average of 81 percent of Democrats approved of the job Obama was doing this past year; just 13 percent of Republicans approved. That 68-point divide is up from a 65-point gap during Obama's first year on the job. 

The next largest gap for a president in his second year in office came in 1982, when President Reagan earned an average approval rating of 79 percent among Republicans and 23 percent among Democrats, a gap of 56 points. 

Obama's 13 percent approval rating among Republicans is easily the lowest percentage any president has earned from voters of the opposing party in his second year in office. 

Gallup's Jeffrey Jones notes that although Obama's first two years in office rank among the most polarizing ever for a president, former President George W. Bush endured three years with larger gaps in party ratings. In 2004, Gallup measured a 76-point gap between Republican and Democratic approval of Bush.  

Part of the gulf comes from the increasing polarization of American politics and of the nation's political parties over the past 30 years. Gallup points out that each of the last eight years has ranked among the 10 most polarized years for presidential approval since 1953. 

The gulf also isn't necessarily a bad sign for Obama heading into 2012. Three former presidents — George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan — all saw the largest gaps in party ratings come in the year they won reelection.


Poll: Obama tops Palin in Arizona

President Obama holds a solid lead over former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) in a hypothetical 2012 general election match-up in Arizona, according to a new poll.  

Numbers released Wednesday from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling show Obama ahead of Palin 49 percent to 41 percent in the state that's home to the man Palin was paired with on the 2008 GOP presidential ticket — Sen. John McCain. 

Obama's approval stands at just 45 percent in Arizona, but the poll found that a full 57 percent of voters hold an unfavorable opinion of Palin in the state.  

The president doesn't fare nearly as well in the state against other potential GOP hopefuls, though. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leads Obama 49 percent to 43 percent, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee leads him 48 percent to 44 percent. 

The poll found Obama in a dead heat with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, with both enjoying 49 percent support. 

It's just the latest in a string of polls that finds Obama faring well against Palin in any number of states that typically are not the most fertile ground for Democratic presidential nominees. Recent Public Policy polls found Obama leading Palin in South Dakota and tied with her in Nebraska.  

The poll surveyed 599 Arizona voters and has a margin of error of 4 percent. 


Poll: DeMint leads presidential pack in S.C.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) currently leads the pack of rumored Republican presidential hopefuls in his home state of South Carolina — a crucial early primary contest for the GOP.

New numbers out Tuesday from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found DeMint leading among Republicans in South Carolina with 24 percent support. 

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee came in just behind DeMint at 20 percent, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 17 percent and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at 12 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) garnered just 10 percent support. 

DeMint has stirred some presidential speculation given his close ties to and popularity among the Tea Party movement, and while the senator is heading to Iowa in March to keynote a conservative event, he has shown next to no interest publicly in a 2012 presidential run. 

A DeMint adviser recently said the South Carolina senator hasn't completely ruled out a bid, but asked in an interview last week by CNN's Wolf Blitzer if he was thinking about a run next year, DeMint answered in one word: "No."  

As for the poll, DeMint's support in the state comes mostly at the expense of Huckabee. Without DeMint in the equation, Huckabee leads with 26 percent, followed by Romney at 20 percent. 

Pollster Tom Jensen also noted that support for Gingrich in the state has dropped fairly significantly since a Public Policy survey from last spring found him leading in South Carolina.

The poll surveyed 559 South Carolina Republican voters and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.1 percentage points. 


Mitch Daniels takes more than two-to-one lead in straw poll

A new straw poll of Washington state Republicans preferred Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (R) with two-to-one over all other potential Republican presidential candidates.

Daniels had 31 percent of those surveyed in the poll conducted by the Washington GOP during their annual Roanoke Conference.

That’s more than twice the level of support won by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Romney won 14 percent of support, while former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty won 13 percent.

More than a dozen other potential GOP candidates — including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour — failed to break double digits in the poll.

The poll included both possible Republican candidates who have strongly hinted or even expressed an interest outright in running for president in 2012 and others who with increasingly large profiles, such as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)

Daniels on Friday said he'd make up his mind and announce whether he will run for president soon.

"I don't think that I've waited too long, but I believe I should come to some decision. There are a lot of people waiting and I owe them an answer," Daniels said according to the Northwest Times of Indiana.

Read the results here.


Poll: GOP in driver's seat in Texas Senate race

A new poll out Tuesday shows a slew of potential GOP Senate contenders leading several rumored Democratic opponents.  

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) holds double-digit leads over former Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas), former state Comptroller John Sharp (D) and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (D), according to numbers from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling.

Republicans are already scrambling to position themselves for the open-seat Senate contest — a rare opportunity in Texas politics. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) announced last week that she would not run for another term next year. 

Dewhurst, whom GOP insiders in the state say would start the race as the favorite in a GOP primary, leads Edwards 50 percent to 31; Sharp, 49 percent to 31; and Castro, 53 percent to 25. 

Dewhurst is the only rumored Republican candidate who reaches above 50 percent support in hypothetical general-election match-ups. 

Other potential GOP contenders, including Railroad Commissioners Michael Williams and Elizabeth Ames Jones and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, also top every rumored Democratic hopeful, but none of them tops 50 percent. 

The poll did not test former Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams (R), who was endorsed Monday by former President George H.W. Bush, or former Solicitor General Ted Cruz (R), another rumored contender. 

The early numbers are largely a reflection of name recognition, with Dewhurst being the best-known among the group. 

The poll found just 38 percent of voters have no opinion of Dewhurst. That number is significantly higher for other rumored contenders, ranging from 54 to as high as 72 percent.

The poll surveyed 829 Texas voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points. 


Poll: Sen. Menendez leads all rumored GOP contenders

Despite underwhelming approval ratings in the state, a new poll out Monday shows both President Obama and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) in decent shape in New Jersey ahead of 2012. 

Menendez leads six rumored GOP Senate contenders by double digits, according to the latest Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) PublicMind poll.

The closest GOP competitor is the man Menendez defeated in 2006 — Republican state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. Menendez leads Kean 44 percent to 34. 

The Democrat's largest margin comes against Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R). Menendez leads Guadagno 47 percent to 26. 

The poll of 802 registered voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points and shows a large percentage of voters undecided in each hypothetical general election match-up. 

While the early polling out of the state shows no obvious Republican threat to Menendez, his approval ratings are lukewarm at best, giving Republicans in the state some hope a strong challenger will emerge ahead of 2012. 

A poll out last week from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found Kean much closer to Menendez in a hypothetical 2012 rematch.

In that poll, Menendez lead Kean by just two points — 41 percent to 39. The Democrat's approval rating stood at just 37 percent.   

The FDU poll also found Obama's approval rating in New Jersey under 50 percent, a measure pollster Peter Woolley sees as a positive given concerns New Jersey voters have over the impact of the healthcare law and the direction of the country.


Poll: Sen. Menendez vulnerable in 2012

A rematch between Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and New Jersey state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R) in 2012 would be a competitive one, according to a new poll out Wednesday. 

Numbers from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling show Menendez with just a slight edge over Kean in a hypothetical 2012 general election match up. Menendez leads 41 percent to 39 percent. 

In 2006, Menendez easily beat back a challenge from Kean, defeating the Republican by a nine-point margin in what was generally a lousy national environment for Republicans. 

But Menendez's approval numbers are now below 40 percent. The poll found just 37 percent approve of the job the Democrat is doing, while 38 percent disapprove. Independent voters in the state also give Menendez low marks — just 32 percent approve. 

It leaves the door open for a Republican to make a real run at Menendez, but the party needs to find a candidate. Political insiders in the state say Kean, the son of a popular former governor, is mulling another bid ahead of 2012, but Republicans appear to have few other options

PPP also found Menendez with a solid lead over another two rumored GOP contenders — TV host Lou Dobbs and the state's newly elected Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. 

Menendez leads Dobbs 47 percent to 35 percent, while the Democrat holds an even large lead over Guadagno — 45 percent to 30 percent. 

Pollster Tom Jensen points out that while Menendez's numbers suggest he's in real trouble in 2012, "New Jersey is not like most places. [Former Gov.] Jon Corzine persistently had a disapproval number in the upper 50s, far greater than Menendez's 38%, and trailed by double digits in most polls up until the last two or three months of the campaign in 2009." 

Corzine ended up losing to Republican Chris Christie by just four points.


Poll: Texans don't want to see a Perry presidential bid

Sixty-one percent of Texans don't want to see Gov. Rick Perry (R) make a run for president in 2012. 

A new poll commissioned by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and a handful of other Texas newspapers found that while Perry's approval rating stands at 50 percent — 73 percent among Republicans — Texans would rather see him remain in the governor's office. 

Perry has repeatedly denied any interest in making a bid for the GOP nomination in 2012, but his name is still being floated in conservative circles. 

Late last year, Perry told the AP that his new book was proof positive he wasn't aiming for the presidency in 2012. The governor said the book, titled Fed Up: Our Fight to Save America From Washington, contains so much anti-Washington rhetoric that it would be a major hurdle in a potential run. 

"I am not interested in going to Washington, D.C., as president, vice president or in anybody's Cabinet," Perry said at the time. 

Perry was elected to his fourth term as governor of Texas this past November. He defeated Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) in a primary before winning the general-election contest over former Houston Mayor Bill White (D).